Short Thought 129 (verbal triangles)

Have you heard of the word triangulation? In families, it refers to the practice of one person saying something to another about a third family member, in hopes that the information – typically critical – will be relayed to the absent person.

I was thinking about this concept after someone addressed words to their cat that really were meant for me. It brought a whole new meaning to triangulation.

For the record, the cat had nothing to say on the matter.

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27 thoughts on “Short Thought 129 (verbal triangles)

  1. vanbytheriver

    Love that it was up to the cat…perfect. Yep…I could write a few hundred pages about that very concept. In a big family, it would get out of hand at times, so we learned to be more direct. That worked, until it didn’t, and some just moved away, emotionally if not physically. ☺
    (And…that’s a bit heavy this early a.m. from someone who hasn’t brewed the coffee yet ) ☺
    Good Morning to you, Colette. 💕

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Not too heavy at all, Van. When I first heard the term, I was like, my family SO did that except it may have involved more people than a mere triangle! As an adult, I opted out entirely. Surprised that your family was able to adopt directness (even for a time); family patterns run so deep and tend to resist change at least w/o a boatload of family therapy (or so I hear). Thanks for weighing in. I enjoy comparing & contracting our respective family histories.

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      1. vanbytheriver

        My family…outwardly crazy, and we all recognized and dealt with it. My husband’s family…passive aggressive, avoiding conflict, suffering in silence, guilt mongering through generations…ugh. That is so much harder for me. There is a reason we’ve never been closer than 300 miles to them. Only 1 of 4, the youngest son, remained, mostly for economic reasons. Have a great Independence weekend. I’m off to swim with the sharks. ☺

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      A good word, yes? That indirectness is so hard to combat. Another angle to this is that when the talked-about person says something to the original person, they can deny having said anything.

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  2. Kate Crimmins

    I find that the cats triangulate to me. They will complain about each other stealing their food, mousies and desecrating the litter box. Of course one cat is very direct and will just bop the other on the head. I wonder if that would work with people?

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Head-bopping does have its place I expect but more so with animals because one cat can’t say to another, “I feel disrespected when you steal the mousie. It brings up old feelings of loss and abandonment related to my kitten-hood. I need you to honor my space and belongings. Or I will bop you.”

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  3. Andrew Davis

    Triangulation can also be damaging to the psyche as it subverts one’s assumed role for an unhealthy one. The cat in this example would be the parentified child. Of course the cat didn’t respond! It must have felt so uneasy in this new role.

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  4. longchaps2

    And strangely enough the meaning often changes with each person. They had a game called Telephone we played as children. You would whisper a phrase in someone’s ear and by the fifth person it was completely changed. This is how family disputes are born. The poor cat got dragged right in the middle, lol.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Yes, I remember telephone! It was quite the surprise how turned around the words got. Your point is a very good one what with everybody running their own agendas or just hearing things through their own personal filter. Poor cat indeed!

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